UK government ministers are preparing to summon MPs for a special Saturday sitting of parliament following next week’s crucial EU summit.
The summit in Brussels on October 17th and 18th is the last scheduled meeting of EU leaders before Britain is supposed to leave on October 31st.
If the prime minister is able to get an agreement, it will be an opportunity for MPs - who will have to give their approval - to debate it. Otherwise, Mr Johnson is expected to set out how he plans to take Britain out of the EU at the end of the month regardless.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the sitting would be an opportunity for MPs to press the prime minister to comply with the so-called Benn Act requiring him to seek a further Brexit delay if there is no agreement at the summit. “The idea that the Prime Minister will break the law yet again is something that needs to be borne in mind here,” he told reporters during a visit to a wind turbine facility in Southampton.
The move comes after judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh said they would not rule on a legal bid requiring a request for an extension to be submitted in the event that there is no agreement at the summit until October.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said that while he will abide by the law, he will be taking the UK out of the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal.
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The prospects of an agreement were looking slim after Downing Street accused the EU on Tuesday of making it “essentially impossible” for the UK to leave with a deal.
However, speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said the position of the British Government on Brexit is causing “great difficulty” in reaching a deal.
“Part of the difficulty at the moment though is the position of the UK Government is that Northern Ireland must leave the EU Customs Union and must be part of the UK Customs Union no matter what the people of Northern Ireland think.
“That’s their position at the moment and that’s one that is a great difficulty for us because the position of the British Government is that the UK must leave the European Union and Northern Ireland must come out of the customs union, whether they like it or not.
“That creates huge difficulties for us because we want there to be a deal that respects the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, and indeed the people in this Republic too,” Mr Varadkar told TDs.
‘Frank’ exchange of views
There was also a “frank” exchange of views between Mr Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call on Tuesday.
Afterwards, unnamed Downing Street sources claimed Mrs Merkel had made clear an agreement was “overwhelmingly unlikely”.
She was said to have told Mr Johnson that if the UK was leaving the EU, it would have to leave Northern Ireland behind in a customs union. It prompted European Council president Donald Tusk to accuse Mr Johnson of engaging in a “stupid blame game”.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that if the negotiations failed, “the explanation will be found in the British camp (because) the original sin is found on the islands and not on the continent”.
He told the French Les Echos newspaper that in such an event, both sides would suffer.
“A no-deal Brexit would lead to a collapse of the United Kingdom and a weakening of growth on the continent,” he said.